Sprint to launch Business Ethernet service in New U.S. and Global Markets

And you thought Sprint-Nextel was just a wireless carrier?  The company, thought of primarily as a 3G/mobile WiMAX provider, has just announced that it will add Ethernet service to 25 new U.S. markets by the end of 2011 and expand the service into additional global regions next year. The carrier offers Ethernet to businesses and wholesale partners in 40 American markets and 37 countries. Sprint said it recently expanded the service by adding additional speeds, ranging from 2 to 10 Gbps.

Enhanced Ethernet access coverage for Sprint Global MPLS and dedicated internet access provides businesses and wholesale partners to maintain multiple types of technologies. Sprint Ethernet access is offered in 40 markets nationwide and 37 countries globally. Sprint plans to launch domestic markets in existing markets by end of year, as well as expand availability globally next year. Sprint has enhanced its service by adding speeds to current aggregated speeds, with ranges of 2-10 Gbps, subject to market availability. Businesses can select from eighteen aggregated speeds and sixteen dedicated speeds, choosing the port speeds that fit their network needs. Aggregated Ethernet access can provide an alternative to traditional TDM access, while Dedicated Ethernet access expands to meet specific customer bandwidth needs, offering fixed-rate and fractional billing.


Comment and Analysis

We expect that Sprint will compete in the U.S. with Comcast Business, Verizon Business, AT&T, Century Link, Megapath and XO Communications.  We’re not sure about who they’ll compete with outside the U.S.

A key issue is whether Sprint will extend its fiber plant to commercial buildings and offer Optical Ethernet.  It’s that techology that offers customers “liquid bandwidth,”  i.e. they can upgrade their access speed without having the carrier deploy a new facility.  For example, a customer could initially order a 10M bit/sec Ethernet Private Line or Virtual Private Line service and then upgrade to 50M or even 100M bit/sec by simply using more of the bandwidth available in the fiber access link.  Of course an automated provisioning/ re-provisioning system is needed to be in place at the carrier’s Central Office (where the Ethernet link access is terminated) to realize such “liquid bandwidth.”  Ethernet over copper (DS1/E1, nx DS1/E1, bonded DSL, etc) can not generally support this capability.

Perhaps, the expansion of Sprint’s metro Ethernet service will provide a lifeline for the company in view of its challenges and difficulties in the 4G market.